Turning Mobile Dreams Into Reality

RELATED: Mobile DTV Developments Grow

Broadcasters have been calling mobile DTV transmissions based on the ATSC A/153 standard the future of both mobile video and over-the-air broadcasting for some time now. But in recent weeks, some important developments—with more to come—will play a key role in turning that vision into reality.

“We are seeing the final technology pieces falling into place for the deployment of endto- end mobile DTV service that satis! es everyone in the ecosystem” and speeds up the rollout of the technology, notes Peter Mataga, CTO of Roundbox, which has been working on a number of mobile deployments.

One important development was the recent release of new reports and tools by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) that are designed to simplify the process of deploying new mobile DTV services and the development of new consumer electronic devices.

These releases include a new method for analyzing and predicting the strength of mobile DTV signals; recommendations for implementing electronic service guides; and tools to help broadcasters plan the bandwidth and bit rates needed for different types of content.

“What we are basically trying to do is simplify a lot of the implementation, both for broadcasters and device manufacturers,” says Anne Schelle, executive director of the broadcasterbacked OMVC group that was set up to develop the technology for mobile broadcasts.

For example, the OMVC’s new predictive model for the reception and propagation of UHF mobile DTV signals, which has been in the works for the last two years, uses a newly developed algorithm to better predict signal strength, making it easier for broadcasters to find and fix holes in their coverage.

As part of its work, in late June, the OMVC also released new tools to help broadcasters plan their spectrum and bandwidth requirements. That will be important for stations looking to customize their deployments so they allocate the right amount of spectrum and bandwidth for the content and business models they plan to use, Schelle adds.

“They’ve laid out some great examples of what has been done in various trials and at stations that are already on the air in terms of how much bandwidth you have to allocate and what is the coding rate, for different kinds of content,” such as sports or news, adds Jay Adrick, VP of broadcast technology for Harris Broadcast Communications and chairman of the Mobile DTV Forum steering committee that has been working closely with device manufacturers and broadcasters.

An even more important development is expected later this month, when the OMVC and the Mobile DTV Forum are expected to release a document defining the baseline capabilities needed in mobile DTV receivers and devices.

That is important because consumer electronics manufacturers have been relatively slow in launching mobile DTV-capable devices, in part because there has been some uncertainty over what kind of features will be needed in receivers and devices. By defining what all devices should be able to do, broadcasters hope that more manufacturers will embrace the technology.

“It will really communicate the must-have features that the manufacturers need to put in the receiver if it’s going to work with the broadcast signals and services that are going to be fielded,” notes Adrick, who adds that the definitions will also make it easier for the companies to deliver new products. “They won’t have to worry that the device they put out will be obsolete in six months.”

The cooperation between broadcasters, chip makers like Intel, device manufacturers like LG and broadcast equipment vendors in developing these device profiles “shows that the industry is making important strides in the operational deployments of mobile, and in the development of tools for anyone who is serious about investing in the transition,” adds John Lawson, executive director of the Mobile500 Alliance.

Alliance members are planning to launch a bouquet of mobile DTV channels later this year that will initially offer two to three channels and then expand to around 15 to 20 mobile channels.

E-mail comments to gpwin@oregoncoast.com